We consider the numerical approximation of a semilinear fractional order evolution equation involving a Caputo derivative in time of order α ϵ (0, 1). Assuming a Lipschitz continuous nonlinear source term and an initial data u0 ϵHν;(Ω), ν ϵ [0, 2], we discuss existence and stability and provide regularity estimates for the solution of the problem. For a spatial discretization via piecewise linear finite elements, we establish optimal L2(Ω)-error estimates for cases with smooth and nonsmooth initial data, extending thereby known results derived for the classical semilinear parabolic problem. We further investigate fully implicit and linearized time-stepping schemes based on a convolution quadrature in time generated by the backward Euler method. Our main result provides pointwise-in-time optimal L2(Ω)-error estimates for both numerical schemes. Numerical examples in one- and two-dimensional domains are presented to illustrate the theoretical results.
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